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The New Normal: Ryan Cox Shares his Virtual Learning Experiences as a Graduate Student During COVID-19

 

With higher education being dramatically altered by the global pandemic, students worldwide are undergoing a dynamic shift in their academics—experiencing an online learning modality that very well may be the new normal. For some, this format takes significant adjustments to become familiar with learning from a fully remote setting. However, for others, embracing change and finding ways of staying engaged virtually is a welcomed opportunity that the masses have yet to explore. 

Part-Time MBA student, Ryan Cox, is an exemplary demonstration of a “glass half full” mindset, leaning into adversity and adapting to the present challenges in a way that is both optimistic and forward-thinking. As an employee of Workday—a human capital and financial management software company—Ryan understands how technology shapes the 21st century’s culture. He finds learning online opens numerous doors for students both domestically and internationally—having the ability to learn from virtually anywhere as long as they can catch a WiFi signal.

Ryan praises Graziadio for its handling of the pandemic and how it has strategically adjusted students’ learning experience during a time of uncertainty. He credits his professors for having a significant impact on his positive online learning experience through their understanding and genuine desire to help students succeed during this unpredictable moment.

While Ryan prefers to learn in-person—being highly social by nature—he argues this shift to virtual learning may become preferred by many. Why? Flexibility. Students have more opportunities to make their schedules work for them by learning online, giving them something invaluable—more time. Having additional time allows students to do things such as work-part time, get involved, and promote a balanced lifestyle.

When advising students about how to learn online successfully, Ryan emphasizes the importance of having a stable “support system” to balance out the complexities of work, school, and personal life. He also stresses the need for discipline and maintaining focus on your studies, as it can sometimes be harder to stay accountable when not in person.

Overall, Ryan is optimistic about the future and is interested in seeing how the pandemic will emphasize the need for technology and its inclusion in everyday life. 

Please give me a little background on yourself and your career. 

My background comes from working at a variety of companies within different industries. I started my career as an Account Executive for a staffing agency and then pivoted into the world of Sales Operations for both biotech and technology companies. I currently work as a Business Systems Analyst for the Sales Systems & New Markets team. My function is enhancing and aligning our sales tools and systems for more efficient, more comfortable use.

What drew you to enroll in Graziadio’s Part-Time MBA program? 

I was drawn to Graziadio’s Part-Time program for a variety of reasons. I didn’t have the financial freedom to quit my job and sacrifice a salary for a couple of years, which automatically threw me into the part-time bucket. Pepperdine has an outstanding program and is recognized globally for the quality of its business school. The added benefit of having seven years to complete the program puts the student in the driver's seat. It provides the flexibility needed in worst-case scenarios (health, losing your job, etc.). Also, I want to live and work in California adds to the significance of having my MBA network in-state. 

How has your experience been thus far shifting from an in-person modality to a fully online format? What are some drawbacks? What are some perks?

It takes some time to adjust; however, I do think this is the way of the future. Working virtually does lose out on social events and having that face-to-face time with other students and professors; however, it also adds an extra layer of convenience by giving you full autonomy of your schedule. Gone are the days of endless commute times! 

How do you feel Graziadio has helped you learn during this unprecedented time?

Graziadio has been very supportive. The professors are amiable and offer us to contact them by email, phone call, or text message even during the off hours if we need extra help in understanding the content provided. Graziadio has been in constant contact with us to give us the confidence that we will all get through this together.

Do you like being able to learn from anywhere? Do you think that this may be the future of master’s programs for a lot of students?

It is a bonus to pick up and go (as long as there is a stable internet connection). It’s nice to visit family, friends, or head on a flight to take an early vacation. I believe that this is the future for masters programs, and we won’t be going back to an entirely in-person educational model. Doing programs such as this virtually provides an added benefit of convenience that you can’t replace and can add precious time back to our days that no one can ever get more of. Additionally, the financial benefit of not having to live on campus or sacrifice your salary helps tremendously, especially with tuition constantly increasing and student interest rates on the rise for graduate programs. 

What advice do you have for students considering the Part-Time MBA program? Do you have any advice or helpful tips to be successful at learning online?

Students need to identify and establish a support system. I asked my girlfriend (we live together) if she would be okay with me undertaking such a personal sacrifice to do this program. Knowing and having the confidence that if I need to buckle down and study or work on some homework, she has my back to take the dog out or cook dinner an extra night here and there is so helpful and relieves so much worry and stress from my plate so I can focus on the tasks at hand. Additionally, time management is a crucial component to have any success in this program. With work and school, you may be looking at anywhere from 60-80 hours a week. Sacrifices will need to be made from your personal life but knowing that this is an investment in yourself makes it worthwhile. Education is something that no one can take away from you.